From the receiving end, condolences can be a right pain. Often it is not that people are trying to cheer me up, but trying to get me to appear cheerful, because appearances are important. If only we could express feelings as we felt them, we would not bottle them up. Someone crying on the bus is doing everyone a favour, by modelling authenticity. Would that everyone could be so brave.

They might be trying to console themselves. It’s not so bad really, they say. You will get through it. Well, your vicarious pain at my suffering is not my concern. It will hurt me far more than it hurts you, because I am the one involved, however wonderfully empathetic you are. I will attempt the way you propose that I get through it, but I am aware of possibly insurmountable difficulties with that course which you are not.

Some might be enforcing the “right” way to feel and respond. ClichĂ© feelings. My feelings are far more complex than that. No, don’t tell me what I am feeling. That must be very painful for you. Well, no, actually right now the adrenaline’s kicking in, and it feels good.

Some tell you that they faced a similar situation but they overcame it. A nose or a chin is such a tempting target. I am terrified, and my inner critic is having a field day. I have failed, failed utterly, in part because I have always tried to fit in and keep to the rules rather than following my heart’s desire, and now I am being punished for it. The World sees me as worthless, just as I do.

I am not sensible. I wonder if the Quaker concept of the Inner Light, or Richard Rohr’s God within, applies to me. There’s that bit inside each person which is their Guide, which will show them the true path if only they act in accord with it. Well, Licia Kuenning was certain of her Inner Guide, and look how that ended. My most powerful inner voices are the sensible bit, which tells me what I should do, and unfortunately has no power to motivate me whatsoever however hard it chides, and the inner teenager. Don’ wannoo, she says. Actually, there are things she wants, which are not sensible at all, and I wonder at them.

What I desire makes no sense to me, except that I desire it. It only makes me happy for odd moments. Oh well, I make that choice. I make it. It is my choice. I choose that.

And I was staring at the thing which I must do, thinking, Oh God, that’s dreadful- and the idea popped into my head how to rewrite it. So I did. It’s not dreadful in quite the same way, now. It may be the best I can do, at least in this mood.

Resentment and grief

My veteran feminist friend had an acid phrase- her first husband had a “colossal sense of entitlement”. He had had no right- an accident of birth had put him very close to a large inheritance, but another had put someone else even closer. It is pointless to resent such things. Naked we come into this world- Bible? Shakespeare? I Timothy, actually- and he has no more right to that inheritance than I have, though it might be galling to be so close. We have no right, but it’s hard to get your head round that sometimes.

I have no right to anything but what I create for myself, and not even that, because I can only create it being part of culture and civilisation. (There’s the argument for taxing the rich in a nutshell: spread the benefits of our culture.) A sense of entitlement is laughable, really: to be under a cloud because of an accident of birth only hurts him. Pitiable. Disgusting, even.

I have huge resentment about where I am and what I possess, and that is no better. I feel I was entitled to more, which is not true, and this only hurts me; at best I rail against the difficulty of the world, which is, well, difficult. So the resentment puts me under a cloud, and my sober realisation that I have only myself to blame and nothing to resent really makes it worse.

Count your blessings, name them one by one…

I wonder if I could picture it as grief. You suffer a loss, and you grieve, and it is a healing process. Eventually you face the world again. We do not berate people for grieving loss, even though we could mock someone for pointless resentment. In this case I would be grieving unconditional love from my mother, and grieving her inability to give it: perhaps if there had been no Second World War, then a great Spiritual Awakening around 1950 we would have been OK. She was hurting too.

In a weekend of rituals, I stood on a chair and the others there enacted my ancestors- 2, 4, 8, 16… 32 born in the mid 19th century, all including my mother with their hurly-burly done (All the quotes today!) all now willing me well. It did not really take. Yet they are all willing me well, in my imagination or mitochondria or the survivals of their thought resonating through the ether, wanting their descendants to do well. They would not want me to feel bad. Grieving lost possibility, I might heal. Seeing myself as grieving rather than resenting, I might judge myself less. The judging only does good if it motivates me.

I had a powerful post-stage high from Greenbelt, and the downer has taken until today; so I may just be seeing things bleakly. Say the affirmation again:

I am Abigail
and I am beautiful, physically and spiritually.
I am gifted, intelligent, articulate, with wit and eloquence
and I use these gifts to bless myself and others.

I do. So I have changed it.